Sunday, March 4, 2018

The FAFICS president's misinformation campaign: No laughing matter, 4 March 2018

Open letter to the members and associate members of the Federation of Associations of Former International Civil Servants (FAFICS)

4 March 2018

Dear FAFICS members and associate members.

Subject: The FAFICS president’s misinformation campaign: no laughing matter

The FAFICS president, Ms. Linda Saputelli, in her latest “update” dated 19 February 2018, posted on the FAFICS website (pdf attached) has doubled down on her misinformation campaign.  You will recall that her update to FAFICS member associations dated 8 January 2018, contained a number of instances of distorted information, which I refuted in detail in my response of 14 January 2018 addressed to you.

This new “update” begins with a renewed attempt to denigrate and discredit the UN participant representatives, mixed in with brief updates on other issues.  While it stretches credulity that by now, anyone could take Ms. Saputelli’s rantings seriously, it is a fact that FAFICS has had some success in wielding power by its manipulation and control of the flow of information.

Most important, there are a number of issues facing our Fund that require the good faith efforts of our retiree organization, of which Ms. Saputelli, however questionable her conduct, holds the office of president.  

A deeply disturbing issue contained in Ms. Saputelli’s 19 February update pertains to the membership of the Selection Committee for the Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the Fund Secretariat.

This critical issue requires the immediate attention of the UN leadership and the Office of Internal Oversight Services in its conduct of the audit of the governance structure and checks and balances between the Pension Board and the Fund leadership, requested by paragraph 8 of General Assembly resolution 72/262, and now underway. 

In response to the audit, UN retirees are currently signing en masse a letter addressed to the Under-Secretary-General of OIOS, citing issues of non-transparency and undemocratic practices of FAFICS, and requesting that the audit consider recommending the direct election of our representatives to the Pension Board, as is the case for participant members (current UN staff) of the UN Joint Staff Pension Fund (a copy of the letter will be shared with you shortly).

In her latest communication, Ms. Saputelli begins with a renewed attempt to malign and discredit the UN participant representatives and staff unions, in a chapeau of single-minded malice to brief reports on various issues –-of a meeting with the new Representative of the Secretary-General for investment; a meeting of the UN Staff Pension Committee; expected time frame of the OIOS governance audit; the Working Group on ASHI (After Service Health Insurance) including a worrying exploration of the “feasibility for UN retirees to be enrolled in national health insurance schemes”.

In attacking the UN participant representatives, Ms. Saputelli falsely accuses them of “issu[ing] their own version of the General Assembly resolution” in their 30 January 2018 broadcast to their constituents, current UN staff. She further accuses them of “claim[ing] full credit for the contents of the resolution and stat[ing] at the end that they had represented retirees.”

In fact, the 30 January broadcast combines information on the contents of the GA resolution with relevant background information from ACABQ and other reports.  And in stating that “As representatives of UN participants [and] having also represented the interests of retirees”, and pledging to work cooperatively with other Board members, the UN participant representatives are affirming the fact of the convergence of the interests of current and former staff in pension matters, not, as Ms. Saputelli alleges, “attempting to represent retirees”. That being said, it is also a fact that the UN participant representatives, by default, filled the vacuum left by the FAFICs leadership in its notable failures to properly represent the interests of retirees on the Board.

In a letter dated 31 January 2018, addressed to the Chef de Cabinet and attached to her update, Ms. Saputelli  doubles down on her allegations against the UN participant representatives and requests the Chef de Cabinet to take “corrective action . . . to the part of the Broadcast pertaining to retirees”. She also alleges, astonishingly, given the gross distortions in her 8 January “update”, that “facts …transmitted [in her update] were …rendered …barely recognizable by Mr. Richards”, thereby naming and singling out for calumny a single member of the UN participant group, all six of whom had signed the broadcast.  

Finally, she threatens: “Should Mr. Richards persist and continue to be permitted by the UN Administration to include misinformation about his mandate in official UN Broacasts, FAFICS will request equal broadcast time to present its views and posit also that it represents staff.”

Recall here that in her 8 January 2018 “update” the FAFICS President, inter alia, a) questioned the ability of the GA to call for the governance audit without prior discussion and debate by the Pension Board; b) claimed that delays in pension payments were “largely a thing of the past” and offered her “considered opinion” that the implementation of IPAS had been “largely successful”; c) cited an outdated evaluation of the CEO’s performance (for the 2013-2014 period) as justification for renewal of his contract in 2017; d) questioned the UN Executive Heads for standing with the UN participant representatives in opposing any renewal of the CEO’s contract; e) accused the UN participant representatives of “push[ing] an anti-board, anti-CEO platform”; and complained she has been “viciously attacked” because FAFICS has “len[t] its support to the CEO.” 

Undoubtedly the practical impact of Ms. Saputelli’s ranting, in both of her “updates” is minimal. The reality is that her distortions are overridden by irrefutable facts contained in the reports of UN governing bodies and OIOS audits, as well as  overtaken by events, including the OIOS governance audit currently underway.

However, as ridiculous as her distortions may be, the fact is also that, whatever her conduct, Ms. Saputelli holds the office of FAFICS president, the purported representative of UN retirees.  It’s no laughing matter that there are a number of serious issues related to the Fund that demand our attention. To name a few: the tenure of the new RSG for investments has recently begun and is yet to unfold; the leadership vacuum on the Secretariat side of the Fund has been exacerbated by the extended leave of the CEO, and the Deputy CEO’s upcoming retirement in August 2018; the need to continue to address the payment backlog and establish a client grievance mechanism; the 2017 actuarial valuation that was abandoned because of inaccurate date submitted by the Fund, with almost $300,000 paid out to consultants down the drain, has to be completed.

The most disturbing information in the new “update” is in paragraph 8 of Ms. Saputelli’s update: membership of the Selection Committee for the Fund’s Deputy Chief Executive Officer.  Here, Ms. Saputelli reports that she and another FAFICS member are members of the Committee.  As if her membership were not disturbing enough, other members include the current Chair of the Pension Board, Annick Van Houtte, and the former Chair, Vladimir Yossifov.

Both Ms. Van Houtte and Mr. Yossifov led the Pension Board in successive years in its failure to hold the Fund management accountable, while working strenuously to silence the UN participant representatives on matters of grave importance to the continuing health of our Fund.  There is no indication in Ms. Saputelli’s record of leadership of FAFICS that indicates any ability to be transparent, fair or impartial, including in choosing new leadership for the Fund.  

The travesty here is that this in this matter that is integral to the OIOS review of checks and balances between the Board and the Fund Management; some of the same persons who are subjects of the review, are currently key participants in the conduct of the search for the Fund’s leadership.

This is a very serious development that requires attention from both the UN leadership at the highest levels and OIOS in the conduct of the current audit, and by copy of this letter I am requesting their respective kind attention.

Loraine Rickard-Martin

c.c. Ms. Ms. Jan Beagle, USG/DM
       Ms. Heidi Mendoza, USG/OIOS
       Ms. Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, Chef de Cabinet
       Ms. Marta Helena Lopez , ASG/OHRM



                                                                                                         19 February 2018


1. After my 8 January update to you was distributed, United Nations staff representatives
issued their own version of the General Assembly resolution on the Pension Fund in a UN Broadcast on 30 January. In it they inaccurately claimed full credit for the contents of the resolution and stated at the end that they had represented retirees. I wrote to the Chef de Cabinet to remind her that FAFICS is the sole mandated representative of UN system retirees and informed her, inter alia, that if the President of CCISUA continued to misrepresent his mandate, FAFICS would insist on equal time to broadcast its views (letter to the CdC follows at the end). For your information, the resolution can be found on the Pension Fund website or by googlingUN GA Resolution 72/262.

2. On 2 February, 2018 Vice-President Warren Sach and I met with the new Representative of the Secretary General (RSG) for the Investments of the Pension Fund, Sudhir Rajkumar. He impressed us with his open manner and stated desire to continuing an active dialogue with FAFICS. Acknowledging the importance of meeting the long-term annual rate of return of 3.5%, he also indicated that his focus is on long-term performance which he considers is in the best interest of beneficiaries. The Fund now has an approximate value of US$ 64 billion. He strongly believes that the Pension Fund should be working as “one team” and provided us with the following short statement which he asked us to transmit to you:

“I understand there have been some issues in the past. Without delving into them, I would
like to say that I am committed to maintaining proactive and open, two-way
communication with all stakeholders. Let me also assure all our stakeholders that I take
the fiduciary responsibility for the investment of the assets of the UN Joint Staff Pension
Fund (UNJSPF), delegated to me by the Secretary-General, very seriously indeed. I will
strive to discharge my responsibilities in a manner that is prudent and optimal, and
enables the UNJSPF to meet its obligations to our 200,000 plus current and future

3. On 13 February, I attended an extraordinary meeting of the UNSPC held in New York.
The UNSPC usually meets twice a year to deal with disability cases. This year an extra meeting was added with specific emphasis on the agenda for the 2018 Pension Board. Both the RSG and Deputy CEO of the Fund provided an overview of their activities. In the end, time constraints did not permit completion of the agenda which was postponed until April.

4. The ALM Committee met for three days in New York from 14-16 April. Vice-Presidents Warren Sach and Marashetty Seenappa attended on behalf of FAFICS. Outcomes of the meeting were an agreed timetable and statement of work for the upcoming 2019 ALM study to be undertaken on the now established four-year cycle to ensure the long term sustainability of the Pension Fund. Follow up arrangements to the Independent Review of Investment Management (carried out by Deloitte) were agreed with the new RSG and the Investment Management Division so as to ensure that agreed necessary reform measures are undertaken promptly in 2018. The ALM Committee also reviewed the recently improved investment performance of the UNJSPF portfolio.

5. The Investments Committee will meet in Palo Alto, California during the week of 19
February. As usual, this will be a closed meeting. On 19 and 20 March, the Audit Committee, on which FAFICS has representation, will meet in New York and we will report on outcomes of interest.

6. You may have noted that one of the provisions of GA resolution 72/262 requested the
Secretary-General to “entrust the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) with the conduct of a comprehensive audit of the governance structure of the Pension Board, including a review for the checks and balances between the Board and the leadership of the Fund, and requests the Office to submit a report with key findings to the General Assembly at its seventy-third session, to be considered in the context of the UNJSPF”. To be ready in time for the upcoming GA the report will have to be largely completed before the Pension Board meets in late July, meaning that it will be drafted by auditors who will not have had the benefit/experience of attending a full Pension Board meeting. Accordingly, the Pension Fund Deputy CEO invited the OIOS auditors
to attend and observe Pension Board committees and other sessions. Auditors attended both the UNSPC on 13 February and also the ALM Committee meeting (over the objections of its Chair) last week.

7. FAFICS representatives continue to participate in the Working Group on ASHI whose
findings and recommendations will inform the Secretary-General’s report to the General
Assembly later this year. The Working Group continued to explore the feasibility for UN
retirees to be enrolled in national health insurance schemes. It also carried out a cost/benefit analysis in relation to primary coverage under national health insurance schemes in those countries where the majority of UN retirees reside. Further, the Working Group continued to consider cost containment measures as well as eligibility criteria for ASHI. The Chair of the Standing Committee on ASHI will be providing a more detailed update to the Council this

8. As reported to you in January, the Deputy CEO of the Pension Fund announced that he

would be leaving after the upcoming Board session at the end of August. On 16 February, the first meeting of the Selection Committee for the position of DCEO was convened. There are eight members on it, two of whom are from FAFICS, Marco Breschi and myself. The Committee is chaired by Vladimir Yossifov, former Chair of the Pension Board and currently a member of the Governing Bodies group, with the Pension Board Chair, Annick Van Houtte, serving as Co-Chair. So far, the Vacancy Announcement has been approved and a timetable for going forward adopted. The Committee hopes to have the new recruit in place by September 2018.



                                                                                                                      31 January 2018

Dear Maria Luiza,

Having received the latest UN Broadcast dated 30 January from “The UN Staff Unions”, I am requesting that urgent corrective action be taken in reference to the part of the Broadcast pertaining to retirees.

First, however, allow me to express that we were perplexed at seeing that although the stated sender of the Broadcast is “UN Staff Unions”, it was sent on behalf of and signed by “UN participant representatives to the Pension Board”. This clearly conflates the distinct and separate roles, positions and mandates of the UNSPC members with those of staff representative bodies. They should simply not be comingled in this way.
Secondly, FAFICS sent its own letter to retirees on the content of the GA resolution on pensions on 8 January, a copy of which was provided to you for information. Let us state for the record that the FAFICS letter transmitted facts contained in the resolution, while the 30 January “synopsis” presented in the Broadcast by Mr. Richards has rendered those facts barely recognizable. It is regrettable that UN staff continue to be so misinformed by persons professing to defend their interests. Lastly and most importantly, I come to the matter which prompted this letter and the point on which we respectfully request urgent action: FAFICS strongly objects that UNSPC members purport to represent the interests of retirees, as they state towards the end of the Broadcast as follows: “As representative of UN participants and having also represented the interest of retirees”, etc. (my emphasis). We request that Mr. Richards be informed forthwith that he has crossed the line yet again on this particular matter, that he has no constitutional basis for
claiming a mandate to represent retirees and that he should respect the limits of his role. We note that none of the Specialized Agency Participants’ Representatives attempt to assume or lay claim to representing retirees. They work closely with FAFICS member organization representatives on their respective SPCs, and respect both their own roles and those of the exofficio retiree representatives. FAFICS has not solicited, nor does it require Mr. Richards’ unwelcome involvement in attempting to represent retirees.

It appears in light of the above that it is again time to recall that FAFICS remains the sole
representative of UN system retirees.

Should Mr. Richards persist and continue to be permitted by the UN Administration to include misinformation about his mandate in official UN Broadcasts, FAFICS will request equal broadcast time to present its views and posit also that it represents staff.

Thank you again for your always kind consideration and cooperation.

Linda Saputelli

cc. Ms. Jan Beagle
Ms. Marta Helena Lopez

Ms. Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti
Chef de Cabinet
Office of the Secretary-General

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